DISCLAIMER: Despite the unpromising beginning, this post is NOT about football. Keep going. You’ll get to the bit about food soon enough. If, on the other hand, you prefer football to food, you might want to read the opening paragraph and stop there.
So. Hats off to the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea on a feisty defeat to Brazil in their World Cup opener last night. Funny how the countries that are keenest to show off their democratic credentials in the name of their country are the ones least qualified to do so.
Still, they played as if their lives depended on it.
In fact, come to think of it...
Anyway, their performance was in stark contrast to Spain’s. They seemed to think that if they just kept passing the ball eventually one of the passes would go into the net.
But that’s not what I want to talk about.
I want to talk about vegetables.
And before you jump to the inevitable conclusion, I have indeed steered the subject away from football and am not referring to the England team.
There’s been a certain amount of self-sufficiency in the Runny household of late. Why, only last night, the Flame-Haired Temptress and I partook of our own radishes, dipped in someone else’s salt; followed by our own potatoes, chives and spinach, paired with someone else’s butter, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and raisins.
A veritable feast.
Peas are on their way, too. And we’ve got more herbs than the annual meeting of the Tijuana Brass Appreciation Society.
All of this has appeared from nowhere, it would seem, lovingly nurtured by the soothing hand of the F-HT.
It was different back in the day. When we first started growing veg, I was the instigator.
Our garden wasn’t big. Nor was it accessible, as we occupied a first-floor flat.
So starting a veg garden was not an undertaking to be embarked on without serious consideration.
I sourced, ordered and bought raised beds, compost and seeds, not making much of a fuss about how clever I was being.
And then, with a great deal of huffing and puffing, I planted and nurtured them.
There came the time for thinning out, the process whereby dozens of healthy pre-pubescent radishettes would be sacrificed to the merciless God of Waste in order that the fittest of the species be given a little Lebensraum.
It’s not for the faint of heart.
After several weeks’ consultation with the sage of all things horticultural, Dr. D.G.Hessayon, I took a deep breath, armed myself with tweezers and set about my grisly business.
The procedure was executed with surgeon-like delicacy and accuracy.
For about five minutes.
Then I got fed up and just ripped the buggers out willy-nilly.
Or left them where they were.
Surely, I thought, they can sort it out for themselves? It can’t make that much difference.
You live and learn.
Time passed and vegetables (some of them, at least) grew.
Slugs and snails appeared. Puppy dog tails probably weren’t far behind.
The best thing to do, I was assured, was to nail them at night.
Manfully, and again with the minimum of fuss, I donned waders and sou’westers (it was a wet spring) and strode into the fray. Eschewing all offers of sustenance, and protected only by the trusty torch of truth and the kitchen scissors of slug-murder, I dispatched them to all four corners of our small plot.
It only encouraged them.
If you’re not a gardener you may not appreciate the determination and downright evil exhibited by the average group of guzzling gastropods.
Think Simon Cowell crossed with Genghis Khan.
Still, eventually, we had a crop of sorts.
Modestly accepting the loving applause of an admiring throng, I made a very small meal of some very small potatoes with a couple of very small leaves of spinach on the side.
The slugs opened an ‘all you can eat’ buffet round the corner.
The next year we were moving, so the garden went by the wayside.
Now, established in the new place, where the garden is more accessible, we have enough room for the following:
A dried-up pond (large enough for frogs to breed, but not large enough for them to hide from Felis Catus).
A faux palm tree (Felis Catus likes to think he can climb it. When he is halfway up, he thinks again).
A couple of raised beds.
It is in these raised beds that we are nurturing the stuff of food fads.
You know how it goes. Every couple of years the foodie community rejoices in a new, painfully chic, fashion ingredient.
Never mind that said ingredient has been in plentiful supply and gone unnoticed for years. This year it is the thing.
Delia started it years ago with those blessed cranberries. One moment you couldn’t buy cranberries because nobody stocked them; the next you couldn’t get them because they were sold out.
Pomegranates, blueberries, Alfonso mangoes, rocket, chard, butternut squash, Jersey Royals, asparagus, artichokes, salsify, polenta, pea shoots, carnaroli rice, argan oil, etc etc. They’ve all had their moment in the sun, leading to some truly horrendous culinary disasters as amateur cooks chuck them willy-nilly into everything they cook, based purely on the fact that Nigel did a feature on them in The Observer last Sunday.
Pomegranate risotto anyone?
You’d have thought that we’d exhausted them all.
I beg to differ.
Broad bean leaves.
Rip them off, wash off the black fly (for black fly there will be), and wilt them in oil with garlic.
They look a bit like baby spinach, but taste like broad beans, which is a little disturbing.
But they are worth a go. At the very least they are more plentiful and require less patience than broad beans themselves, which always look so promising in their plump pods, but which invariably yield a crop barely big enough to coat the bottom of an eggcup.
All I ask is this: if broad bean leaves turn into the next superfood fashion, just remember where you read it first.